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Why Shoyo Hinata From Haikyuu!! Sounds So Familiar

Voice acting is all-important in any animated series, as the characters are brought to life thanks to the skill of the people behind their microphones. In the volleyball anime "Haikyuu!!", those voices are so important because this series depends so heavily on characterization. And in the case of Shoyo Hinata of Karasuno High, the voice acting must be on point because he's the protagonist — and a young, sometimes hot-headed one at that who grows in maturity and in skill as the series continues.

As you might know, Hinata is distinguished from the others on his team by his height — he's short for a volleyball player — and his flaming red hair. He's not hard to spot in the starting lineup of his team, and he's often in front because he plays the position of middle blocker. He also has a distinctive voice, provided by one of the Japanese anime industry's most versatile voice actors, Ayumu Murase (some sources say that this is a stage name). 

Murase has been in a number of high-profile shows and games, but with his range, you might not have realized that you knew his voice from other projects. He's been in video games — including ones in the "Final Fantasy" and "Street Fighter" franchises and "Pokemon" projects — totaling more than 100 productions. Here are some you might know him from. 

He plays the young Johnny Bolt in Super Crooks

The Netflix anime "Super Crooks" is part of Millarworld, the comic book publishing company that was owned by Mark Millar until Netflix purchased it in 2017. This puts it in the same universe as "Jupiter's Legacy." It's based on the "Supercrooks" comic title, which is also being turned into a live-action series. When it released in late 2021, IGN called it "one of the biggest anime surprises of the year" and lauded its slick animation and smart writing. 

In the 13-episode series, Murase has a pretty important role in two episodes: he plays the young Johnny Bolt. If you know the series, you know Bolt is the protagonist, and the first episode is dedicated to showing him as a teen. It shows the boy's troubled home life and the awakening of his superpowers. This leads him to dry and make a dramatic debut, but a bullying classmate at the big event figures out who he is and causes him to lose focus. The ensuing accident devastates the entire area and places Johnny squarely onto the super-villain track. 

He plays a Eldian warrior candidate in Attack on Titan

If you're a fan of the anime "Attack on Titan," you know that the series focuses on a society that is being attacked by gigantic man-eating humanoids. Over the course of four seasons, more about these horrific creatures — and the cities that house the remaining humans — is revealed. 

But in the fourth season, the series' timeline took a big turn to focus on events taking place in the nation of Marley. It introduced a society in which the Eldians are subjugated, yet are also the only ones who can inherit the power of the Titans. In this world, Udo is one of the young Eldian Warrior candidates training to become Titans. He's not portrayed as particularly confident, poised, or level-headed. Udo was played by Ayumu Murase (per Funimation), but the character did not last long.

When Eren Yeager reveals his presence during the festival in Liberio by transforming into the Attack Titan, he causes a certain amount of destruction. A piece of debris crushes Zofia (Yumi Kawashima), and Udo tries to free her. Unfortunately, he's trampled in the ensuing chaos, and neither of the trainees get out alive. This happened during the sixth episode of the fourth season, so sadly, Murase's supporting character didn't get much airtime on the show.

He plays Venti in Genshin Impact

When it was released in 2020, Chinese developer MiHoYo's "Genshin Impact" video game was seen as a "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" clone (via Game Informer), but it soon became a bona-fide pop culture phenomenon in its own right (for example, its characters appearing in memes on TikTok went viral). "Genshin Impact" also became a big hit, raking in $2 billion in its first year, according to mobile-app monitoring company Sensor Tower as quoted in the New York Times

In the game, Murase provides the voice of playable character Venti, a free-spirited bard who uses the Anemo Bow. Venti was a very popular character when the game first came out, but his popularity has been variable based on what various patches and updates did to his abilities. One YouTuber, dragonfly, noted in September that Venti was so popular at the beginning because his strength is combat against large hordes of enemies. Later versions of the game focused on other enemies and bosses that Venti was not as good at tackling. Along with that, "Genshin Impact" released new characters, like Kazuha in July (via Ginx), who were more versatile heroes overall. 

However, he remains popular with fans. PC Gamer calls Venti "arguably the best elemental support in the game." On Reddit threads, players often name him as a favorite. u/Kosmic_Kraken said, "He's absolutely wonderful and beautiful. Playful and carefree but also very emotionally intelligent. Sad yet genuinely caring. Complex — trying to balance his ideals with the harshness of reality. And a god of freedom just speaks to my soul on a primal level."

One of his earliest roles was as Recon in Sword Art Online

"Sword Art Online" remains one of the most popular and influential modern Japanese anime. CBR credits it with creating many of the tropes associated with isekai anime, and it's clear that the anime category — in which the main character is transported into a new world — became much more mainstream after the first season of "Sword Art Online" aired in 2012. 

In "Sword Art Online," Murase had a minor but important role as Recon, or Nagata Shinichi, the virtual mentor for Leafa (Ayana Tagetatsu). Kirigaya Suguha, Leafa's alter ego, is a friend who asks him to teach her to play VR games. While Shinichi in "real" life is a boy with short black hair and glasses, his online avatar in the ALfheim Online game has light green hair and elven ears. He appeared in six episodes showing off his skills with daggers, dark magic, and stealth, although he's considered a generally weak character. He also confesses his love for Leafa, who does not react in a positive way.

Recon played an important role in the fairy dance arc, preventing war between the Sylphs and the Cait Siths and sacrificing himself to kill many of the Guardians of the World Tree. There's some question about his fate, given that his character disappeared from the anime, but it's clear Shinichi himself is still around in the background of the main character's lives.